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"Of all ghosts the ghosts of our old loves are the worst." - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

“Up, up, up! Eep, eep, eep! Oop, oop, oop! Come on!” It was Vera. “It’s noon, you goons. We’ve places to be, places to see!” Scéléra and I were still lying in the grass, snoozing in the morning sunlight. It was nice…but we were awake now. Where the hell were we going?

“Where are we going?” Scéléra asked groggily. Now I wouldn’t have to. It was a trivial thing, but it made me feel kind of warm and fuzzy inside to know that we were thinking the same thoughts at the same time. Maybe I was human after all, at least in some ways.

“We’re going for food! We need food so we won’t die and it seems that we’re all out! And all three of us are going to get it. We can tell them we don’t live together and we’ll get triple noms!”

“We don’t have money for food?” Scéléra wondered aloud.

“Nope! Not today! Fucking Mal spent it all on Heffalump yesternight. They’re trying to ‘expand the business’, so he says. He thinks we’ll be rich soon, like he always does, but today we’re broke. So we’re going to some Catholic food giveaway thing. Hopefully they won’t poison ours, but let’s not be too sure.”

“Are you sure I should go?” I asked. “I’m basically ‘Stigma Man’. I need a black Superman-like suit with a big SM on the front. It’ll say ‘Stigma Man’ on the back. I think that would be fantastic. There’s even a double meaning there since whips and chains excite me.”

“Oh, I knew that already, bubzy! It does make noise when you hit someone with a strip of leather. You two know that, right?” Scéléra almost blushed, which was probably the closest thing to a blush that I had ever seen come across her face.

“Don’t worry, loves, I may have perhaps once been a professional in that area of kinkfulness myself. I guess that means I still am one…” Interesting.

“Damn! Yeah!” Scéléra was excited. “Teach me your ways.”

“Maybe I will,” Vera said in some kind of mating call voice.

“That sounds truly splendiferous. You have SM’s approval.”

“Why thank you, Marquis de Sade,” Vera said back to me. “But yes, we must be off!” So we were off. The Crown Vic was cruising around town once again. No one was safe…quite literally, perchance. I guess Mal had been picked up by Heffalump earlier that morning. Heffalump Woozle drove a purple Chrysler 300 that I adored tremendously. Still, I didn’t think it was smart for him to be driving it. The cops would pull that car over simply for being what it was: a purple town car. And in Heffalump’s case the book matched the cover, so to speak.

“We must rehearse!” Vera demanded. “What shall we say at this damn thingy?”

“I am cattle, hear me moo!” Scéléra suggested.

“They keep telling us the ‘whats’ but never the ‘whys’,” I added.

“Lovely, lovelies. Scéléra, yours was perfect! Just repeat it and wait to graze! Ivan, if you say yours then you’ll probably be exorcised. You mustn’t question anything, you know. Never ever!” Never ever? Damn…but she was right. I would have to try to pretend to be Unquestioning Man while we were there. “And we’ve arrived! Welcome to the pre-everlasting final destination.”

While looking out of the car window I could see a precession of villagers, they flowed into the opulent billion-dollar cathedral and back out again. They carried a few groceries with them as they left. I was glad that the people were being fed, but it did seem a bit like baiting to me. There were at least a couple pounds of religious papers in each of those grocery bags. Before we joined the people stream, Vera got out one of the all too familiar little plastic bags and poured some white powderiness out onto the console. I was extremely glad that our windows were tinted.

“Shneef!” She went first, then Scélera followed. There was a line left for me, and a second later it was gone. Where did it go? You can figure that one out on your own.

“Shneef!” The exclamation was catching on. We exited the car so gloriously that I could hear theme music playing. It seemed that I could never do cocaine without hearing theme music, which wasn’t really such a bad thing. We were the best of the best. Songs would be sung about us one day, oh yes! Going to church on cocaine… oops…how controversial of us. Maybe if it wasn’t so damn controversial we wouldn’t bother doing it! Who knows? I did know that once they said I wasn’t good enough, all that was left to do was either kill myself or grow to love being ‘bad’.

I chose the latter, and was now a product of society. They’d soon learn that recoil is a real thing. By that I mean karma’s a bitch. We had finally gotten into the flow of…well, hunger, I guess. We were in the line everyone was growing rather impatient. Imagine that! Maybe doing coke before standing in a long line isn’t too wise. Too late. Too bad.

“Hi! You think I’m pretty? Oh, thank you!” Scéléra yelled at a few people in the line who were looking at us as if we were literal shit, then murmuring to one another like a high school clique. Actually it seemed like everyone in the line was staring at us. How long had that been going on?

Would we make it to the food alive? I wasn’t quite sure that we would. They were all looking at us like hungry piranhas preparing to strike. The Jaws music began playing in my mind even though Jaws wasn’t a piranha. Duh, na…duh, one had bitten us yet. I kind of doubted that they were into biting anyway.

“Tristan!” Anna was standing next to me. I thought she was supposed to be older than me, but she certainly wasn’t. “You haven’t talked to me much lately, Tristan…I feel so lonely without you…” I wasn’t sure what to say.

“You haven’t spoken to me lately either, Ivan. Why is that? No matter…we’re going to play a game. Are you ready?” Shadowshade was here too. I was almost sure that I was not ready to play his game.

“We’re getting close!” Anna and Vera said at the same time. We were nearly inside of the ‘sanctuary’, if one could call it that. I could hear the choir singing, but they probably weren’t. I have a vivid imagination.

“Woo!” Vera exclaimed. “This place is regal as hell! I feel richer already!”

“Hell isn’t fancy!” A little boy behind us shouted at her.

“No ma’am, it certainly isn’t!” The man beside him agreed. Good god. He was the boy’s father, I assumed…at least I hoped he was. He might’ve been a horny Catholic priest in disguise. Which could he be? I would’ve asked, but that would’ve surely made the piranhas bite. Chomp, chomp. I couldn’t decide whether this was hilarious or ridiculous, so I concluded that it was both.

Scéléra seemed uneasy now. Vera looked like she was about to smash the maybe-father in the face. She wouldn’t punch the kid because he didn’t know what he was saying; he was just repeating what he had been told. I was a kid once. I remembered what it was like. But since I wasn’t a kid anymore, I offered them a thought.

“Since you know for a fact that hell is not regal, this means you must have seen it. When did you go to hell, sir? I went to hell once. It was nice and steamy, like a hot tub. It really is regal, man! It’s a fucking luxury resort!” Of course, the maybe-father didn’t even get to hear my retort in full. All that was on his mind now was the word ‘fucking’. He was obsessing about ‘fucking’ right next a young boy. I could tell that he was thinking about ‘fucking’ with great intensity. I guess he was the priest after all.

“You use the words of Satan, you fiend!” Ooh, ‘fiend’! I was okay with that. I always wanted to be a fiend. “The power of Christ compels you! The power of Christ compels you!” Jesus Christ. All of this ridiculosity was over ‘fucking’. He was more upset about that than he was about my timeshare in hell. Did he even hear anything other than that one word? There was all of this uproar, all because the man’s mommy and daddy told him not to curse as a child. But after this he and his son, or altar boy, retreated farther back in line. Damn, they left so soon! I was having such a good time.

“Tristan, come and find me! Come and find me!” Anna called as she cut ahead in the line and disappeared into the building.

“Yes, go find her.” Shadowshade agreed with a little laugh. “That’s the game.” What were they up to? Then I was being grabbed from behind. Ahh! Was it the police? Was it that crazy man and the boy? Shadowshade? Oh, no. It was Scéléra. She grabbed me and we kissed, at least for a moment or three, right there in front of ‘God and everybody’.

“You pissed off that asshole and it really turned me on.” Splendiferous.

“Really? When you’re turned on, it seems to be contagious. Maybe that’s the way it goes, one and then the other, like dominoes. More like magnets, I think.”

“You’re disgusting!” Someone shouted at us.

“Are you even married?” Another convert kept the hate going.

“There are children here!” Really? Come on. When was the ‘Crucify! Crucify!’ shit going to start? I was about to give up on the food.

“If you don’t like it then turn your motherfucking head in a different direction!” Scéléra screamed. I discovered what she meant about being turned on by retaliation.

“Come on, both of you. We just need to get in, get the shit, and get out. It’s just like when you go with Heffalump and do the droozle doozling and whatnot.” Vera could tell that we were approaching nearing our breaking points. We really weren’t evil people. Why did they treat us as such? None of these bouts of food line insanity were instigated by us.

But finally we were walking inside. We were about to get to eat! Hooray for not starving! Vera went across and got a bag, then Scéléra, and then me. As the church’s volunteer handed me the food, I turned my gaze her. She looked so familiar that I immediately read her nametag.

“I heard your language back there…totally uncalled for! But here you go. Wear some color. Black, black, and black? You look like a Satanist.”

“Which kind? The ones that think he’s real or the ones that just admire the character’s character?”

“Obviously the ones that KNOW he’s real! You think Satan is just a character? No one could be stupid enough to think that Satan is just a character!”

“I think Satan is a badass character who was popularized by religion, like a Marvel villain that people took extra-seriously.”

“That is absurd! Satan is controlling your thoughts. I’m not religious! I am Christian!”

“Well, the Dictionary says that religion is ‘the belief in a god or in a group of gods’. By saying you’re not religious, by definition, you’re saying that you don’t believe in a god.”

“Well only idiots don’t believe in God.”

“If you believe in God but say that you aren’t religious, which means that you don’t believe in God, then you’re just spluttering oxymorons at me.”

“What? I don’t understand. I’m not religious. I am a Christian.” Was she oblivious to everything I had just said? Did she not know that Christianity is a religion? Had she never gone to school? But that wasn’t it. She just refused to listen because she believed that Satan was trying to rid her of her faith and using me as his unholy vessel. While that was flattering, she couldn’t understand that I was using logic and not demonic spells. Then what she was saying ceased to matter. I read the nametag…”Anna”…

“You found her!” Shadowshade cheered joyously as my mind melted. She looked just like she had before, only older and certainly more ‘modest’ and Christianized. I must have to be dreaming. Was I still asleep in the grass back at home? There were ways to find out.

“Anna?” I asked. “That’s your name?”

“Yes it is. It says so on my nametag. Can’t you read?”

“I’m Tristan, The Very Hungry Caterpillar.” Her eyes instantly widened. God damn. I was awake. Time slowed down and then screeched to a halt. “I think I might be your brother.”

“Tristan? Jesus, look at you…” She didn’t seem very happy to see me. Maybe it was because of the childhood we shared full of rape and incest…I remembered those days. “Are you on drugs or something? Your pupils are huge,” She questioned. A questioning Christian? Egad! More oxymorons.

“Don’t worry, it’s just cocaine.” It seemed that our lives had gone in very different directions ever since we left the orphanage.

“Oh my God! You should go, right now!” She was appalled by me.

“Do you no longer have feelings for me?”

“Tristan, what we did in Mother and Father’s house was an abomination to the Lord. I have repented of that horrendous sin and so should you. I have a husband now. He leads the youth ministry here.” I was a bit hurt by the part about ‘abomination’, and I imagined her husband calling young girls whores as he banished them from ‘God’s Temple’. We had become so very, very different…

“I don’t believe that people calling us abominable means that we were. I loved you then and I love you still, but I suppose I love you in a very different way than I once did.”

“We were abominations! Don’t question the society, Tristan. The Devil wants us to question. Don’t let him win. Just take the food and go, you filthy drug addicted non-believer. Take it and go away, please. It hurts me to see you now.” This had gone quite terribly.

“You know what? You’re a condescending stuck up bitch. Tell someone who cares about what you think how to live. Don’t tell me.

I don’t have a disease

There’s nothing that you could cure

I’m never going to be

Your definition of pure.”

With this, I left the building. I soon caught up to Scéléra and Vera, who had nearly made it back to the car.

“What took you so long?” Scéléra asked. “We thought you started a riot.” No…not exactly.

“The girl handing out the food was my sister, my sister who I haven’t seen in years. She completely loathes me now. She was being absolutely ridiculous. I wish I wouldn’t have seen her again.”

“See?” Shadowshade purred. “We played a game, just like I said we would.” It hadn’t been a very fun game for me…but he already knew that.

“Holy shit, she’s been converted! Don’t worry. If she hates you that much then she isn’t really your family anymore, but we are.” Scéléra walked over to wrap me in her arms. She could tell that I was in need of a hug.

“Tell her to go fuck herself! Maybe she doesn’t even know how…” Vera added. I laughed at her joke, though it was pretty plausible. “But now we must be off! Mal’s on his way home. Apparently we’ll have le monies again soon, so we won’t have to come back to Religiosity Acres anymore.” We had made it in and out and had lived to tell the tale. That was certainly surprising, but still fortunate. So the Crown Vic sped off into the distance, leaving the fortress of organized religion behind.

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